A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' image released Sept. 22 shows an artist's rendering of what a possible flood barrier could like near the Kill Van Kull. (Courtesy: USACE)

NY - $52B plan meant to protect NYC from storm surge: ‘Sacrifice zones’ among environmentalists’ concerns

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — The United States Army Corps of Engineers has proposed a herculean project they say will protect the New York City and New Jersey coastline in the coming decades as climate change raises tides and threatens communities.

The agency is now refining the initiative’s exact scope, but some local environmental groups are pushing back against the multi-billion dollar plan that is coming into focus.

The “NY-NJ Harbor and Tributaries Coastal Storm Risk Management Feasibility Study” (HATS) report published last year detailed five possible alternatives for the project plan, each with a range of measures, such as storm surge barriers in the waterways surrounding Staten Island and sea walls in areas along the borough’s coastline.

The tentatively-selected proposal, known as Alternative 3B, has a $52.7 billion price tag, would create 2.2 miles of storm surge barriers — including massive structures at the mouth of the Kill Van Kull and the Arthur Kill — and install more than 50 miles of shoreline mitigation measures.

Planning for the project began as a study in 2016 but was paused in 2020 when the Trump administration slashed funding; the Biden administration restarted the effort with a new influx of financial support.

This latest Army Corps effort is separate from its years-long and delay-laden East Shore Seawall project centered on protecting borough communities devastated by Hurricane Sandy more than a decade ago. It would also join the South Shore Living Breakwaters coastal protection project that broke ground in 2021.


A consortium of 10 major environmental groups comprising the area affected by the study came out in opposition of the Army Corps proposal in a 14-page letter submitted in mid-March.

Four central concerns — a narrow focus on storm surge, over-reliance on in-water barriers, creation of sacrifice zones and combined sewer overflow issues — were highlighted as critical oversights and underscore the significant complexity surrounding efforts to holistically combat the insidious effects of global warming.

Because the Army Corps’ mandate has been to address storm surge in its proposal, the environmental groups said the agency “missed the mark at protecting our communities from many aspects of future storms and climate,” effectively not addressing future projected sea level rise — a growing concern for New York City that would not be mitigated with barriers only in effect during major storms.

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